The Coach's Corner

Archive for 2012

Do you really believe what you say?

December 17th, 2012 // Tom Doescher //
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I just read an article about Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant entitled “Japan Utility Says Nuclear Crisis Could Have Been Avoided”. I then went to the Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s (TEPCO) website, and this is what it says: “TEPCO strongly wishes to be a nuclear power plant operator which has the world’s highest level of safety awareness, engineering capabilities and risk communication ability with society”.

Before I make my point, I want to stress two things: First, I realize the company may have added this wording to their website in response to the accident that occurred in March of 2011; and second, my intention is not to pick on TEPCO.

However, the wording on the company’s website hit a nerve with me. As businesspeople, do we really believe what we say, or are we willing to stretch the truth strictly for the purpose of looking good? My experience tells me that you can’t answer this question with any certainty until you are really tested.

The other day I was talking with a business owner who told me he needed to remove one of the senior executives because of some unacceptable behavior that had violated the company’s values. The owner told me that several years earlier, the expelled executive had been warned about his behavior.

The owner went on to say, “I hated to let him go, since this executive ran a very profitable division and we really need him right now. But it was the right thing do.”

This is where the rubber hits the road. Do you have a situation like TEPCO, where you know there are problems and you should act, but are not? Do you have a senior member of your team who violates your principles, but you look the other way because he makes your company a lot of money? Do you really believe what you say, and live by your principles and values?

Are you holding your team accountable?

December 3rd, 2012 // Tom Doescher //
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One of my favorite books is Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?, by Louis V. Gerstner Jr. In his closing comments, he says, “People do what you inspect, not what you expect.” I was reminded of this thought-provoking advice when I read “What happened to accountability?” by Tom Ricks in the October 2012 issue of the Harvard Business Review. Instead of me attempting to summarize a great article, the following is a link to a 13-minute interview of Ricks about his book.

Listen to the interview and read the article

As a leader/business owner, would you say you’re more like General Marshall or General Taylor?

Quicker does not always mean better

November 19th, 2012 // Tom Doescher //
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This story will really date me, but please hang in there. I was at a reception one evening some years ago, and was engaged in a fascinating conversation with a prominent corporate attorney. The fax machine was the latest technology at the time (no smart-alecky comments, please), and he was talking about how it was making an impact on his work life. He said, “Before the fax, my client would call me and explain his problem or issue. He would put the paperwork in the U.S. mail, and I would receive it a few days later. In the meantime, I had several days to think about my advice. The documents would arrive and I would review them. I would then place a call and discuss his options. Now, my client sends a fax and calls me immediately to ask my advice. I have no time to really think through the issues, or maybe seek advice from one of my partners. There is no way my advice is as good as it used to be.”

Imagine this story today, with smart phones!

My caution to each of you is to have the courage to know when to slow the process down. Having the ability to push things through quickly does not necessarily translate into doing a better job. Think about this: Have you ever regretted sending an e-mail or text?

It’s all about execution

November 5th, 2012 // Tom Doescher //
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In his first year as managing partner of Plante Moran, Bill Hermann visited many of the major accounting firms in the country. One day, after he had visited with most of the firms, he and I were talking. He said something like, “You know, Tom, the strategies and tactics of the other firms look very similar to ours. It’s all about execution.” I believe he was right. Most of the companies I have worked with have pretty good strategies and reasonable tactics. What distinguishes the best performers from the average performers is execution, or the way they go about achieving their objectives. Do you have clearly defined goals? More importantly, are you and your team achieving your company’s goals? Although technology has enriched our lives and businesses, it has also created a lot of new distractions that easily divert our attention and interfere with our plan of action. We know what we should be doing, but are we actually following through?

How would you evaluate your execution?

Will your company be successful in 20 years?

October 22nd, 2012 // Tom Doescher //
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Over the years I have noticed a correlation between successful companies and the average experience level of their leadership team (you may call it your executive or management team). I have worked with companies that, although they are making money, are noticeably slipping. A common denominator among these companies seems to be that they aren’t investing in new products or technologies, or coming up with innovative concepts; in many respects, they are benefiting from decisions and actions that they — or their predecessors — made years ago. When I attend management meetings at these companies, I feel like one of the youngest people in the room (I know I just stepped over the line with that, but I believe it needs to be said). On the other hand, really successful companies have a blend of seasoned executives and younger members who have fresh ideas and are willing to challenge their elders when they say, “We do X this way because that’s how we’ve always done it.” If your goal is to be a successful company in 20 years, maybe it’s time to take a step back and take a hard look at the composition of your leadership team.

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Tom DoescherYou’ll find stories from the trenches, business lessons, and pertinent questions to help you find inspiration, professional growth, and leadership savvy.

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